Have you thought about…. ?
Updated: Jul 16, 2019
Another invalidating practice I have become aware of is recommending other options when I don’t agree with a choice that has been made. This is so subtle because it comes in the guise of “helping”. I’ll use another example with one of my nephews – this young man is trying to find his way, he’s in his early twenties and right after high school he made the decision that he didn’t want to go to college. College to him meant a lot of debt without a lot of benefit at the end.
I had an opinion that college is the only way to get ahead in this world. In my family, my brothers and I knew that we were going to college, there was no choice. I don’t ever remember having a conversation about going to college it was just understood that that was what we would do, and we all did. Although we learned a lot, not one of us has used our area of study directly in our careers. With my nephew, I would talk to him and tell him the benefits of college, and how you could go to college with scholarships and grants to reduce the cost, how he could go to college in Germany for free and learn in English, and on and on. I really thought I was helping him by talking to him about other options. He’s very diplomatic and he never suggested that I mind my own business or that my suggestions were not being considered, he would listen and tell me that it sounded like a good idea.
As part of my journey, I became aware of trying to influence other people and their choices, especially my family. Believing that it is all coming from a place of love, which yes there is some of that, but it is also coming from a space of “do it my way” because I know better. By even suggesting something else, the implication is that the other person’s choice is wrong! Now if my nephew had come to me and said can you help me brainstorm a few ideas and we had a dialog about some options that is a different story – he’s asking for help, very different then giving unsolicited advice.
Everyone in our family had an opinion about what he should or shouldn’t do, he chose something that no one thought was a “good” idea and he is still uncertain about what he would like to do but he’s starting to make some decisions to try out some things that feel good to him. There were so many opinions and perspectives about what he “should” be doing that he has been unable to decipher what is his information and what is everyone else’s.
Last week he made a decision about something he wanted to do, something he had talked about a few years ago. I was sincerely delighted for him. Our whole family is on a journey to awareness and they all rallied around him to support this decision. I was so thrilled to see the difference in my nephew – I could see how the support changed him, there is some confidence and I sense a feeling of rightness in him that I have not seen in a while. I know that this will all increase over time as he is given more space to choose what works for him, not the rest of us.